At the top of Wittenberg, we decided as a group that Mitch’s pace was ruining our chances of us all making it to the car tonight. And even Mitch knew he was not capable of making it up another summit (or two), let alone in the snow. Mike and Mitch were both out of water, but Mitch did have iodine tablets in case we needed them. Luckily Pat and Brian had quite a bit of liquids still with them.
(Mitch’s note- I have never drank 3L in such a day hike before, it probably didn’t help that I was starving. Mitch needs sustenance :)
So our decision was for Pat and Mike to continue as planned to get the car. And Brian and Mitch were to head back down the way we came. Brian and Mitch were going to go down to the parking lot that we crossed at the Woodland Valley Campground and wait for Pat and Mike to drive around to pick them up there. We figured B&M would beat P&M down, and would have to wait an hour or so for them to finish their trip and drive around the mountain.
At this point we had about an hour and a half left of daylight, and we had two headlamps between the 4 of us. So Mike’s headlamp went with him and Pat, and Mitch’s headlamp stayed with him and Brian for the descent.
Here the story splits - Pat and Mike then headed out as every minute passing was a minute of precious daylight. Their route is on this map in BLUE. Their story will be included after mitch and brian’s..
Brian and Mitch stayed on the top for a few more minutes, enjoyed the view and started to head back down. Their route is in ORANGE on this map. They enjoyed a fairly quick pace (compared to going up) and worked their way down past the Terrace Mtn shoot-off before dark.
Once the sun went down, they continued without their light and used the bright moonlight as their guide for quite a while. Especially since they didn’t know how well the light would work for lighting the way for both simultaneously. They then temporarily “lost” the trail for a moment and decided that it was time to break out their only light. The trail was easily identified with the artificial light and they continued down with it. Mitch followed Brian with the light, pointing it at Brian’s feet so as to light the way for both.
This worked well at a reasonable pace as long as they remained close together. Mitch wanted to make it to the sign-in box before they took their last break. But he couldn’t do it, so they took one last good break before they were going to make the final push to the bottom. While scanning the surroundings with the light, they realized that the sign-in box was actually just few feet from them! So they signed out, and then pushed to the bottom.
They made it down to the empty parking lot by about 8pm. They figured that they had a good hour or so before the other team would reach their destination, and knew that it would be at least a half an hour drive around to come get them. So they hung out on a bench with good visibility down the only road into the park. The campground had closed the weekend before, and there was no one around and no payphone anywhere. It was a clear night, and they had a view of the stars while in the middle of the lot.
After an hour though, it got fairly cold and they decided that they were either going to start walking again or were going to start a fire somewhere. The empty firepits were really out of the way of the road, and they didn’t want to miss the other guys when they drove into the camp, so they chose walking down the desolate road.
Mitch and Brian made it miles (maybe 5?) down the road before finally seeing the tundra’s headlights!
They hiked about 11 miles on the trail, the last 2 in the dark. Total elevation gain about 3063’.
Then logged about 5 miles of relatively flat walking down the road in the dark.
Pat and Mike continued along the planned route. Also only with one headlamp between the two of them.
There was a creek crossing at the end of their trail. And they found Colin on the otherside.
Though they didn’t correctly recall where Mitch and Brian were headed to, and told Colin that they were headed to the drop off point.
Pat and Mike hiked about 13 miles with a total elevation gain of about 4079’.
Worried about Mitch and Brian’s status, Colin hiked in where he originally dropped us off. His route is in pink on this map. He carried a gallon jug of water, granola bars and a lantern up into the empty woods alone. He didn’t think we had any water resources and was concerned since he originally expected us all to be done hours prior. He saw no signs of anyone on his trip in, and turned around after about a mile and 600’ elevation gain. Before turning around he left a jug of water and granola bars in the middle of the trail, just in case.
Colin then went back to the cabin to talk to Mike again and finally they remembered that Mitch and Brian were going to end up at the campground! So Pat and Colin got back into the truck and drove around the mountain to find Mitch and Brian walking along the road..